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on 30 October 2011
The core idea behind this book, and the author's previous book 'Herd', is that we are not rational, straightforward decision making machines who cooly judge all of the available options and select the best fit. No, we are copying machines. We will seek to find comfort in our actions by copying others around us.

It's a big idea. It fundamentally changes how you perceive a lot of things in and around business. It's tricky to get your head around at first too, but this book really lays out a splendid, concise take on the idea that strips away as much unnecessary complexity as possible, and starts you thinking about how it might apply to what you do.

What's more, there's also a really useful model for looking at the patterns in the data of your business, and seeing to what extent you might in in an individual choice market, or indeed a market in which social choice and the copying of others is an intrinsic part.

Thought-provoking, enlightening and useful. Copy me and read it before everyone else does... ;)
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on 5 January 2012
I bought this book to see if it provides practical, marketing related answers to the questions that Mark Earls posed in `Herd'. By and large it does not; so if this is your interest I'd suggest waiting for the next one.

The authors state that their `ambition is to provide you with a practical and usable map to help you navigate your way through the complex world of human behaviour'. What this book mainly focuses on is providing an interesting historical review of many ideas, theories and experiments that have built on each other to understand how peoples' decisions are influenced by others in society. The map comes at the end and is a two by two analytical matrix. As such it provides a thought provoking and practical framework for thinking about how people take consumption decisions in different situations. But if there is any guidance provided on what you should then do as a consequence, I missed it. The nearest I found to this was a recommendation to `light many fires' e.g. spread your bets.

It is good at what it does - it's just not what I was hoping it is. It stimulates thought rather than providing a route map forward. My only gripe would be that the structure of the book is not made clear, so I sometimes found myself confused about why a particular section or new idea appeared where it did. This makes it more difficult to follow the argument that the authors are making.
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on 18 November 2011
I really enjoyed reading this book. Not only was it clear and concise but more importantly it managed to do what most books on behavioral economics lack: not only does it explain the fundamentals of how and why humans are social but it also explains how this can be applied to the real world.

Obviously this book is highly relevant to people in marketing and advertising but I think the core ideas here can be applied to every walk of life and thus would recommend this book to everyone who is remotely interested in the way people behave; from bankers to graphic designers.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 December 2012
The title of this study of social behavior comes from the Katz Deli scene in the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally. One woman observes another appearing to have an orgasm at a nearby table and tells the waiter: "I'll have what she's having." The title serves as useful shorthand for the human practices of imitation, replication and diffusion of ideas. Academics Alex Bentley and Michael J. O'Brien and consultant Mark Earls offer lucid prose and easy-to-follow examples in their fine introduction to social behavior. getAbstract recommends their insights to those interested in greater self-knowledge, social change, or marketing and innovation.
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on 22 February 2012
This book is from the authors of Herd, another good book also concerned with social behaviour. So many books in this field and the general behavioural area repeat the same old mantras. You hear the same arguments and examples again and again. What makes this book stand out is that the authors pull together research from a variety of disciplines and say something new.

It is obvious that as individuals we behave differently form when we are in a group. Social decision making is a hot topic. The authors cover how and why we make decisions within a social context. Although they do not give golden rules for how to predict how groups of people will behave they do map out a landscape that helps to determine the strategies people are likely to adopt.

They make many interesting observations along the way, some seem obvious but are rarely acknowledged, for example :

"we tend to envisage the social landscape through which these ideas are spread as firm ground, often as a fixed social network. What in reality are transient interactions and relationships - a conversation, a schoolmate, a co-worker - are now so often portrayed as if they were fixed "wires" between people in social networks.....those who picture this fixed network of wires between us are excited to launch their ideas to spread across it through careful strategic placement, to get it to spread on its own, say from one Facebook page to another."

We have all been at presentations where these network diagrams are used to explain social groups. The adoption of simplistic models is understandable but as they argue it there are more appropriate and accurate ways of viewing idea dissemination. Gladwells influencers may exist and have an impact at a local level but their individual influence within large dynamic networks is reduced.

They talk about social cascades where small changes can cause an avalanche of change. This is based on the notion of self-organized criticality where a system is in a state of continual flux but bound by its interdependencies. In these systems change tends to be a gradual smooth process but critical points can trigger avalanches of change that have a much wider impact. Within social networks the level of interconnectivity, the rate of change of connections and the receptivity to change of individuals all contribute the likelihood of an avalanche.

The book is full of interesting titbits and references to other concepts which deserve following up. For example the marketing scientist Andrew Ehrenberg who came up with the Dirichlet model which assumed that consumers had no inherent brand preference and that they made choices based on chance and availability. His views in the 60's were radical and disputed but later research has shown them to hold true across a wide range of different product categories. I expect he is not news to those with a marketing training, but it was a revelation to me.

The book's structure leads you a long a path of increased understanding of the subject, not mere repetition of one or two key ideas. The final chapter presents their conceptual map of how people choose.

It presents the two axis of the number of people in the social group against the number of options to choose between. Although the map is a continuum, one can define the overriding method that is likely to be used in each quadrant. Knowing the position of your product in the map helps to understand how users may behave and what, if anything, you can do to influence them.

A very good book and refreshing to be presented with some genuinely new insights.
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on 16 June 2014
The title references the famous 'fake orgasm' scene from When Harry Met Sally. It might lead you to think this is a bit of jolly romp through the social behaviour of humans, perhaps heavy on cultural references and light on science. In fact the opposite is the case. This is heavy going for anyone not already familiar with some of the basic understandings about human behaviour. Even if you are, you may finish the book and wonder what exactly it is that you've learned and how on earth you might apply it. Not an easy read. I may have to go back and read it again.
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on 25 October 2011
For those of us in the advertising business the prevailing convention is to think about about human behaviour in terms of the individual. And the objective of advertising being to try and change that individuals behaviour.
'I'll have..' sets out to counter that convention by demonstrating that 'consumer' behaviour is far more social; ergo influence is social (ie peer influence etc).
And a pretty compelling argument it is too - though not necessarily a popular idea in adland ;) - obviously if you have followed the thread from 'Herd' and 'Welcome to the Creative Age', this is essentially part 3 of the trilogy.
The behavioural science version of Bowie's Berlin trilogy of Low, Heroes and Lodger, if you like.
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on 14 January 2012
Enjoying this as much as Mark Earls' previous book HERD. Based on the idea that we're fundamentally social animals who copy others rather than making independent rational decisions of our own, this book's a call to those of us in marketing and communications to change the way we think about audience dynamics and how we encourage behavioural change.
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on 3 November 2011
People copy people. It has always been that way but now in our `always on' interconnected world this fact has a more profound effect on the way we think about social behaviour than ever before. This book explains why our behaviour is driven more by our social context than our individual `rational' selves. This book is an invaluable resource for anyone in the business of influencing others. The authors have created a map which explains a number behavioural change models in a simple way. The ideas in this book will stimulate the discourse in the communications industry very well.
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on 22 May 2012
When you look at childrens' names popularity evolution based on US census data some similar patterns appear with shape of the curve strikingly alike. Social diffusion mechanics is at work here and its effects can be mathematically measured and analyzed. That's basically what's the book about. I guess it was intended to provide a short guide through different theories of social diffusion but instead it does not seem to be a coherent material, rather a set of a bit superficially connected essays on the general topic of social diffusion. Enough story for an in depth article in popular science magazine, apparently not enough for a book which is by the way a very short read of merely 140 pages. The book offers some solid evidence illustrating social processes of ideas spreading across the societies but lack of one single thread joining different hypothesis together does not make it an easy read. Gladwell in his "Tipping point" seemed to be focusing his thoughts on the right people as a prerequisite for ideas to become contagious. Looking for different skills, backgrounds, personal traits of people was a motive putting the pieces of the puzzle of his book together. There is no such a motive here, I have not grasp it at least. (obviously Gladwell was more about popular then science). Some parts of the book, though interesting in itself do not seem to fit the rest, specifically language structure or economical "games" in primitive societies sections seem to be missing the context and offer no clearly stated connection with main idea behind the book. At the end I was not quite sure what was the book about, though its last chapter seems to be best organized and finally offering some systematized piece of knowledge. So if you are not really interested in this kind of topics or are just looking for well structured narrative that would give you some basic facts or some overview, this should not be your first choice.
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